Monday, November 15, 2010

Lake Tahoe: Truckee, Ritz Carlton Highlands

Ritz Carlton Highlands  13031 Ritz-Carlton Highlands Ct., in Truckee, (530) 562-3000.  6 stories; 170 rooms.  All gas fireplaces.  1 adult pool, 1 child pool; 2 hot tubs; full-service spa.  3 restaurants; room service.  Valet parking only, $35/night.  $25 resort fee.  The quiet road off the main highway that leads up to this grand hotel provides a 4-mile drive through spectacular mountain scenery (located at an altitude of 6,941 feet, it is high enough for some people to experience the effects of altitude sickness).  Because builders left as many trees as possible, the hotel appears nestled into a hill, as if it has been here for a long, long time.  Guests walk up steps from the lower entrance into a lobby with large granite-slab floors.  The high ceiling is meant to mimic a tree’s canopy, and the smooth wood-beam supports mimic its branches, while the two-story-tall field stone-and-granite fireplace, with multiple hearths, is reminiscent of its trunk.  Tall windows bring in tree and mountain views.  A “living roof” decked with plants is just outside atop the porte cochere and sports a view stretching for 25 miles.  In winter, guests can ski-in, ski-out from a large patio that leads into a ski rental and storage facility.  Most rooms have good views of the mountains, trees, and ski lifts from their big opening windows, and many have step-out balconies.                  
                Well-appointed Manzanita restaurant (B-L-D daily; $$-$$$+.) serves California cuisine with “a mountain vibe.”  Coffee is Peet’s, and o.j. is fresh-squeezed.  It features an open kitchen with adjacent communal chef’s table and full cocktail service, and outdoor seating is available in good weather.  Mountain Blue Market offers quick counter service and lighter fare as well as take-away, while The Living Room bar let’s guests warm up near the fireplace and order contemporary American light fare and cocktails. 
                Most guests take at least one meal down the mountain about 1,500 feet in the Village at Northstar.  It is reached by a free 9-minute ride in an enclosed six-passenger gondola with a killer view.  The center of the village is a skating rink—ice in the winter, roller in the summer—and restaurants and shops aplenty surround it.  Free live music and outdoor movies are sometimes scheduled. 

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